Defining Criminal Intent in Florida

March 31, 2022 Criminal Defense

Criminal intent is incredibly important in Florida criminal law. Intent generally refers to a defendant’s state of mind when they commit the criminal act charged. Under common law, there are a few kinds of criminal intent, but the majority of criminal offenses fall under specific or general intent.

Differences Between the Types of Intent

There are many differences between general and specific intent, but generally speaking, specific intent crimes will be harder to prove than crimes involving general intent. This is because specific intent crimes force the prosecutor to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant had the desire to commit the criminal act and the requisite intent that committing the act would achieve the outcome that happened. On the other hand, general intent crimes require the prosecutor only to prove that the defendant intended to commit the criminal act charged and that the criminal act is illegal.

Specific Intent

A specific intent crime is one where the State must prove that the defendant had the intent to commit the crime AND the intent to achieve the end result. You can tell the difference between specific and general intent by looking at the criminal statute for the crime charged. Generally, specific intent crimes will include descriptions of intent like “knowingly, maliciously, intentionally, willfully, purposely” etc. So, if a defendant does not possess the requisite intent as contemplated by the statute, the prosecution will have a hard time convicting for that criminal offense.

Here are some examples of specific intent crimes in Florida:

Specific intent crimes usually are punished more severely than general intent crimes. This is because most specific intent crimes require planning, malice, or premeditation. Because the defendant had to commit the action with an intent to do so, lawmakers believe it should be punished more harshly than crimes that could occur in the spur of the moment.

General Intent

For general intent crimes, there will be no language in the statute outlining the required intent. So, the State just has to prove that the defendant intended to commit the criminal offense or recklessly committed the criminal offense and that the offense is illegal in the state of Florida. The prosecutor does not have to show that the defendant intended to cause a specific outcome or harm. General intent statutes will generally describe only the crime and not the intent to commit the crime.

Some examples are general intent crimes are:

To illustrate the principle, let’s take a closer look at DUIs. In order to be convicted of a DUI, the prosecution merely needs to show that the defendant got behind the wheel after drinking over the legal limit. That is sufficient under the law to show a general intent to commit the offense of drunk driving.

Tallahassee Criminal Defense Attorney

If you or a loved one has been charged with a criminal offense, it is incredibly important to understand the charges against you and what exactly the State needs to prove. Contact a Tallahassee criminal defense attorney as soon as possible so you can be guided and informed through your criminal legal proceedings. Don Pumphrey and the members of the legal team at Pumphrey Law Firm have decades of criminal litigation experience and will help you understand the charges against you. Contact us today at (850) 681 – 7777 or send an online message today to discuss your legal matter during an open and free consultation with an attorney in our legal team.

Written by Gabi D’Esposito

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